Mugabe, supported by his band of “war veterans” and political supporters, has been accused of harassing and intimidating political opponents, particularly members of the Movement for Democratic Change. Mugabe’s policies have been denounced in the West, by certain African leaders, and at home. He has described his critics as “born again colonialists,” and both he and his supporters claim Zimbabwe’s problems are the legacy of imperialism, aggravated by Western economic meddling and of course his arch enemy Tony Blair.
Mugabe lost the first round of the 2008 election to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, 43% to 48%, though neither candidate secured the 50% necessary to avoid a runoff election. Questions abound about how he lost a rigged election and I am certain someone, somewhere was answering some pretty embarrassing questions.
Early signs were that Mugabe might actually concede defeat and allow the country to change leadership. This of course was great cause for celebration down south where Thabo Mbeki’s policy of “Quiet Diplomacy” — so ridiculed the world over — seemed to have borne fruit. But alas, after weeks of flip-flopping and delaying it was announced that the votes had finally been counted and it was too close to call.
It was interesting to listen to Mugabe’s men explaining how the counting was still going on but they already knew a runoff was necessary. Kind of strange, don’t you think? And then, predictably, the violence erupted.
It was all depressingly predictable. There was never going to be a “free and fair” election; the opposition was never going to get the chance to embarrass the government or Mugabe again. Violence, murder intimidation, arrests for treason, harassment, and the prevention of rallies and canvassing began. It culminated with Mugabe’s war veterans preventing an MDC rally from taking place last week. Finally Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the Movement for Democratic Change, took refuge in the Dutch Embassy and declared that he would no longer contest the elections.
As expected, the elections went ahead amidst calls from world leaders that the elections be postponed and a settlement be reached.
Some African leaders even lent their voices to this call, but, once again, South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki, once the most influential leader in the region, remained silent. By the weekend, the results were made known (they sure counted fast this time!) and Robert Gabriel Mugabe was sworn in for a sixth term in office as president of Zimbabwe. The world can condemn him all they like; he simple doesn’t give a hoot.
The people will starve; they will continue to cross the border by the thousands, exasperating the problems we already face in South Africa. And Robert Mugabe and his generals will cling to power, pat themselves on the back, and blame the rest of the world for the problems that befall their country.